Gardening and Exercise: Healthy Aging for Older Adults

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Mature Market Experts: more mature market news and stats more often: Gardening and Exercise, Healthy Aging for Older Adults – More often than not, the outdoor environment of a senior ‘retirement’ community is ignored and people focus on the attributes of a building’s interior. However, the activities that can be offered on the outside of a building are almost limitless, constrained only by the imagination, and not by a person’s age. We should encourage people to explore how the exterior environment can provide avenues for older adults to participate in physical activities that benefit them in many different ways. The stereotype, unfortunately, that older persons over the age of 65 are for the most part ill, dependent, mentally incompetent, unproductive and unattractive is alive and well. Nothing could be further from the truth, and fortunately this is changing thanks, in part, to the “Baby Boomers.” In actuality, those persons aged 65 and older represent one of the most diverse population segments, with everyone aging differently. While some of the oldest cohort (85 years and older) are frail and experiencing multiple chronic conditions, others are active and rate their health status as “good”.

In order to encourage older adults to exercise, active lifestyles need to be created in and around senior residences. Ultimately this will result in greater independence in the daily lives of a majority of the older adult population. There are a great number of programs—such as bike riding, hiking, birding, canoeing, etc.—that can be implemented to encourage older adults to become more involved in the outdoor environment.

Among these activities, one of the more personally rewarding programs is gardening. Gardening is the number one leisure activity in America, today. Studies have shown that many people 65 years and older are interested in gardening as a hobby. Everyone has had some interaction with gardening, whether it was tending to a house plant on a fire escape, blueberry picking along the side of the road or sharing fresh grown vegetables from the garden with family and/or friends. The percent of seniors interested in gardening and related activities has increased significantly over the past years and the number is expected to continue to increase as the “Boomers” age. That generation is more inclined to expect organic vegetables, health foods, and other natural products as part of their daily living.

There are reasons why gardening should be a natural part of a senior living community. It is a highly visible hobby in which everyone can participate, either passively or actively. And there is always one person that is a ‘resident expert’ who has had previous gardening experience and can lend advice. If a person has never experienced the joy of raising a plant, they can be encouraged to start small and build up gradually. The senior can begin with one tomato plant in either a container or in a small garden space. What person has not delighted in raising and ultimately sharing a fresh grown vegetable from their garden with family and/or friends?

Development of activity programs can be designed to meet the various needs of the seniors. Higher-functioning individuals who are physically active will be able to participate in a wide range of activities. Gardens can be located on-grade or at ground level, in order to take advantage of the larger growing areas. There can be minimal costs associated with the construction of smaller raised planting beds. Seniors residing in Assisted Living Residences may require a higher level of support. There can be garden spaces for Community Gardens located throughout the complex. However, there should be provisions for raised planters located closer to the residence. This will enable seniors who utilize wheelchairs and walkers to experience the joys of gardening nearer to the building. And seniors who are not able to actively participate can watch from windows or on a porch.

Accommodations for handicapped seniors should be incorporated into the overall design of garden activities in order to allow everyone to participate and feel a part of the program. Various levels of gardening can be introduced to encourage individuals to take part. Containers or raised planting beds are more easily accessed for people in wheel-chairs. Vegetable plants with brightly colored fruit and with a fragrance are good for the visually impaired. Ergonomically designed tools that are lightweight and have long handles make the job easier, especially for arthritic and wheelchair-bound seniors. Each person needs to experience his or her own unique sense of accomplishment. After all, the purpose of participating in an activity program is to promote better health, increase agility, maintain a sense of independence and feel better about oneself.

Gardens for special needs residents, Alzheimer’s and other memory-impaired patients, are another very specific level of programming. Gardens should be designed to meet the needs of the people at each stage of the disease. For example, plant material should be nontoxic for stage-three Alzheimer patients. Plants can be a wonderful tool for remembrance therapy. The tomato plant is widely recognized, has a very distinctive odor and the red fruit is attractive. Vegetables offer stimulation to almost all of the senses, therefore, they should be readily utilized in the garden.

The key to success in developing any activity program is achieving a level of motivation that stimulates a personal interest. There should be opportunities to interact with other people. We all like to meet friends in various settings. Education regarding the benefits of gardening can also be an important part of the program. Guest lecturers, how to/educational videos, magazine subscriptions, walking tours and classes can be part of the gardening program.

Individual goals should start small and be realistic. A person should not try to do more than they are able to the first few days. Moral support is also very important. Remind the senior of the benefits of physical activity and how participating will personally reward them. The same logic that motivates a person to participate in a group also motivates a person to pursue individual interests. Help the person set goals that can be achieved on a daily basis. Keep track of their progress so they can see the results of their efforts. Socialization, the enjoyment of nature and education all contribute to the success of any activity program.

Gardening involves many small tasks that encourage physical exercise. Bending, reaching, pulling, stretching are just a few of the movements that are required. A study conducted at Tufts University in Boston discovered a “threefold increase in muscle strength among frail, elderly nursing home residents aged 86 to 96 who exercised their legs on a weight machine over an eight week period.” (DiGilio1994) Seniors who have never been exposed to an exercise program continued even after the program has been concluded. They realized the importance of being physically active. As a result of their consistent efforts, they now have increased mobility, agility and energy and are experiencing increased independence.

The following list offers insight into just how beneficial exercise and physical activity can be:

• The risks of cardiovascular disease decrease dramatically
• Mental acuity increases, as more oxygen is available to the brain
• Proper weight is maintained
• Neurotransmitters are regulated, resulting in less depression and anxiety
• Digestion and gastrointestinal mobility is increased
• Flexibility and balance is improved
• Self-esteem is enhanced
• Individuals experience an increased emotional resiliency in response to life’s changes and losses
• A perception of positive health status contributes to an overall satisfaction with life

The ability to be outdoors and interact with nature also has been proven to have its own unique benefits. The natural production of Vitamin D occurs with exposure to sunlight. There are psychological benefits to interacting with the environment. Watching a beautiful sunset or experiencing the sunrise has a profound effect on mood and emotion. All of the senses are activated when you are outside. The smell of Lavender angostifolia (lavender), the sound of a bird’s song, looking at a chipmunk scurrying about for food, as well as touching the soft leaf of a plant such as Stachys byzantina (lambs ear) are all activities that excite the senses. Research supports the preceding findings and the results are significant.

It is also important to be needed. The act of gardening not only maintains a connection with nature, it creates a sense of dependency. When a senior raises a plant and is responsible for its care, that person develops a bond. Both need food, air, light and water as a basic minimum. A person also gains positive reinforcement from growing plants. We feel better about ourselves when we have accomplished a talk, such as growing a plant or harvesting vegetables.

Another indirect benefit of gardening is the promotion of quality sleep through natural means. Older adults suffer from a decreasing production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Many older adults tend to get sleepier in the early evening, around 8 pm, and then wake up at 4 am. This can be very frustrating because it offsets normal routines and disrupts schedules. Daily activities and regular exercise regulates hormones and bright natural light resets our biological clock. Exercise promotes peaceful, uninterrupted sleep and diminishes episodes of insomnia.

Senior residences should be designed to meet the needs of older adults who want to use the exterior environment. Some residences may offer a walking path and/or a few benches. The plant material, exterior furniture and other amenities must be suited to a specific use by the older resident. Whether creating a new project or upgrading an existing residence, it is important to incorporate the professional expertise of a Landscape Architect and a Gerontologist. These two professionals need to be involved from the onset, along with the Architect and Engineer, in the development of a new residence. The Landscape Architect is experienced in the selection of a site, including the placement of the building in a location that enhances the views to and from the building, minimizing impact on the existing environment and presenting a realistic construction budget. The Landscape Architect understands how to create environments suited to a person’s specific needs and is experienced in the art of problem solving. Functional and aesthetic perspectives are equally important to the success of any building. The Gerontologist understands the aging process and how to meet the needs of a particular age group when designing a senior residence. The physical, emotional and social aspects of the aging person must be considered. The Gerontologist works with the staff to tie together the multiple needs of a person successfully “aging in place”. The psychosocial dynamics of stimulating a person’s interest and engaging them in an activity is very important. The Gerontologist and Landscape Architect are vital links to the success of a project and are therefore integral parts of a design team.

An exciting aspect of the creation of outside areas that stimulate physical activity is envisioning how these spaces will evolve over the coming years. In the future, residents who participate in various activities will not resemble the residents today. The Baby Boomers, many of whom are currently caregivers for their parents, will demand a different set of standards for themselves in years to come. They are an active, mobile, environmentally conscious generation that will face today’s challenges in new and exciting ways. Comfortable exercise outfits and sneakers will replace walkers and orthopedic shoes. Health food and environmental programs will become industry standards. These predictions help to challenge our imagination and keep us focused on how we will create the living environments we ourselves will expect tomorrow.

About the Authors: Nancy Norton Carman, M.A. Gerontology, CMC and Jack Carman, FASLA, RLA

Jack Carman, owner, founder and president of Design for Generations, LLC, has over 20 years experience as a landscape architect. He is a nationally recognized expert in the design of therapeutic gardens, particularly Alzheimer’s gardens and outdoor environments for senior living communities. http://www.designforgenerations.com/

Note from Tom Mann: Gardening is America’s #1 hobby. Guess who makes up the biggest percentage of gardeners?

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Bridging the Generations

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It has always fascinated me how children in schools are taught history, but have never really met face-to-face with those who experienced or contributed to it. Much of the older generation (80+) has not been exposed to modern technology, such as computers, cell phones or  iPods. They remember the old Victrola, entertainment through radio, the milkman delivering products, and the terrible depression we’ve only heard about on the news.

I thought it would be a great idea to somehow bring the two generations together.

The seniors would learn about life, the way it is for the children of today. And the children would learn about what life was like when the seniors were growing up 80-100 years ago.

About four years ago, I started the Bridging the Generations program with the local schools in my city. I’ve worked with several teachers on an ongoing basis over the years to bring the two generations together.

The children came to Oak Park to “Meet and Greet” my residents for the first visit. They were paired up with the residents, and prepared to ask questions and listen to the wonderful stories the residents had to tell. They children were amazed! “Wow, you rode in a horse and buggy to school? “, one child asked.

They kids began to look at the residents as individuals. Often times, children are afraid of seniors and view them as old, frail and vulnerable. This program really brings them inside the lives of seniors. They begin to see that aging is something to look forward to, not something to be afraid of.  It is a part of life that we all experience. It’s what you make of it that counts.

The next visit I have with the children is when I bring my residents into their high school. The children cook and serve breakfast to my residents. Last year, East Ridge High School students cooked a huge Thanksgiving dinner for the residents. The student band came in and played for them.  And the drama club, which consisted of the students that are in our program, performed a musical for them. The residents spent time listening to the students read speeches on what they were thankful for, and the students listened intently to what the seniors were thankful for.

The seniors saw first hand the art of text messaging, clothing that wasn’t tailored and multiple piercings. At first, I think they were shocked as to why a mother would let their children go out looking like that!

As the students sat down with my residents, the residents began to look past their outer appearance. They began to have a deep appreciation for the students and understood it was a struggle for independence. The residents gave the kids advice about the importance of education, following their dreams and to not judge a book by its cover. High school kids usually don’t listen to adults.  But for some reason, the children listened to the seniors.

The students learned firsthand about segregation.  They learned it both from seniors who had to be at the back of the bus, and from the ones that could only play with friends who were white. The students were amazed that segregation was really a part of history. It was a very moving experience for both generations.

The relationship between the residents and the students is continuing to grow. We are involved with them once a week and many other times during the month.  New schools continually want to be a part of this program. The kids also come and visit my residents all the time outside of school. They bake for them, pen-pal with them and come to all of our dances.

The hugs and kisses are never ending.

My residents’ faces light up when they see the kids. And the kids cannot run fast enough through the door to hug and kiss my residents. This program will continue for years to come for a simple reason: as much as the kids brighten the residents’ days, the residents have enriched the lives of the children in the very same way. It is very important for children to step back in time and learn about life before the comforts of today. We want to teach them to not be afraid of growing old but to appreciate the lessons they’ve learned.  We want them to understand that life as we know it now was pioneered by those who lived before us.

It is our responsibility to teach children to respect and appreciate the elderly, and I will continue to do my part to bring the generations together.

About the Author: Terri Glimcher is a Contributing Writer at Inside Assisted Living and the Activity Director for Summerville at Oak Park Assisted Living, an Emeritus Senior Living property in Clermont, Florida.

Mature Market Experts Stat of The Day: Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Occupancy Rates

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How badly is the current housing market hurting the mature market’s opportunity to move into a retirement community, assisted living, or nursing care? According to a New York Times article, “Across the country, occupancy rates for independent and assisted-living facilities have fallen slightly in the last year, by about 2 percent through the middle of 2008, according to the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry.

But the problem is playing out acutely in hard-hit areas like Florida, where the vacancy rate at some facilities is up 20 percent to 30 percent over last year, said Paul Williams, director of government relations for the Assisted Living Federation of America. At Luther Manor, a retiree community in Milwaukee, the number of residents moving into independent living has dropped 20 percent this year. In southern Ohio, 65 percent of the people who visited the Bristol Village retirement community this year said they could not buy a unit because their homes were still hanging around their necks.”

Source: NY Times

How are people responding? Boomers and mature market are looking at  products that can help them stay in their homes (video: The Today Show) . . . and for people in need of assisted living and nursing care, adult day care is rapidly becoming the stop gap answer. If only companies understood how to market these products . . . they would be selling the heck out of them.

 

 

 

How to Interview an Assisted Living Activity Director

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Having been an activity director for four years, I truly enjoy when families collaborate on a plan to get their loved ones involved in the activities in my community.

When first touring an assisted living community, it is very important to receive a copy of the activities calendar. Most seniors who are transitioning to assisted living have been very active in their communities prior to the transition.

It is very important that they continue to be active and feel a part of their community. Here are some recommendations to make that more likely.

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Mexico’s Growing Assisted Living Market Targets U.S. Retirees

It appears that Mexico is looking to combine cost advantages and the resort-like experience to compete for U.S.-based mature market and assisted living customers.  As featured in the Dallas Morning News.

By LAURENCE ILIFF / The Dallas Morning News
liliff@dallasnews.com

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Mexico – Laredo native Alice Edwards and her helicopter pilot husband have an active lifestyle in this picturesque town popular among retired Texans.

But the 60-somethings are also the new owners of a townhouse in Mexico’s first assisted-living development aimed at the U.S. market, Cielito Lindo.

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Learn what’s hot in 50+ Housing at the 2008 Best of New England Awards Gala!

Join the 50+ New England Housing Council as they recognize award-winning mature market regional projects. Twenty-seven finalists have been selected from among the region’s premier designers, developers and agencies.Winners will be announced at the Gala, October 22 at the Doubletree Boston-Westborough in Westborough MA.

The awards program and dinner recognize excellence in design and marketing in the 50+ housing industry.   

  • See displays featuring the winning projects.
  • Network with colleagues, vendors and the winners.
  • Learn more about current and future trends among the finest Active Adult Communities, Apartments, Continuing Care Retirement Communities, and Assisted Living Facilities in New England.

Click here to Get your tickets today!

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Just the Facts:Registration and cocktails begin at 6:00 pm, and the banquet and awards program is at 7:00.WHEN:      

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
 
 

 

COST:    $80 per person (members), $95 (non-members)
DEADLINE: RSVP by Friday, October 17
MORE INFO: 50+ New England Housing Council, phone 617-773-1300, fax 617-773-1660
Register today for this exciting event!

Registration forms are available on the 50+ New England Housing Council website by calling 617-7733-1300.

 

Mature Market Experts Stat of The Day: The Costs of Care

What are the costs the mature market faces for care?

 

The average daily cost for a private room in a nursing home is $213, or $77,745 annually.

The average daily cost for a semi-private room in a nursing home is $189, or $68,985 annually.

The average monthly cost of living in an assisted living facility is $2,969, or $35,628 annually.

The average monthly cost of living in a not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community is $2,672, or $32,064 annually.

The average monthly rate for assisted living facilities that charge additional fees for Alzheimer’s and dementia care is $4,270, or $51,240 annually.

To move into a community, individuals must also pay an entry fee ranging from $60,000 to $120,000.

The average hourly rate for a certified home health aide is $32.37.

The average hourly rate for a uncertified home health aide is $19.00.

Source: AAHSA, American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging

 

The national average daily rate for adult day care centers is $61.

The national average hourly rate for homemakers/companions is $18.

Source: 2007 MetLife Market Survey of Adult Day Services & Home Care Costs